Long-term maintenance, employee benefits and cash carryover were identified as budget priorities for Columbia River Fire and Rescue's next fiscal year.
Although the budgeting process will not start until March, Fire Chief Mike Greisen and Finance and Human Resources Director Marit Nelson asked for input from the five-member CRFR board Tuesday, Feb. 14, about what they view as priorities for the coming year's budget.
Some topics identified include increasing the amount of cash carryover allotted each year and looking into the financial impact of contracting with an ambulance company to handle medical calls.
A range of priorities were specified, but it became clear from several directors that the fire district needs to develop a long-term equipment maintenance plan for the CRFR fleet. That plan should also include the financial cost of upkeep, as well as strategies for investing in new equipment down the road.
Diane Dillard, board secretary, said she is worried about equipment replacement, and wanted the district to have a better idea of how to purchase new equipment on a semi-regular basis rather than scramble each year to locate funds for such purchases.
"Let's make it so it's not so difficult to know what we're going to have," Dillard said.
Hans Feige, a board director, also noted his desire to see a long-term equipment plan. Feige, who was selected to fill a vacancy on the board in November, has previously served on the CRFR budget committee and is familiar with budgeting processes.
Feige also suggested the district analyze and evaluate how much it is allocating toward total benefits for employees, "because so much of our money goes to that," he said. Expenses that are dictated by state policies like payments toward the Public Employment Retirement System, can't be controlled, but those elements within district control should be monitored, Feige added.
Budget process to start in March
Dates for the budget committee to meet have not been set yet, but the process of reviewing the 2017-18 fiscal year budget will begin in March.
Greisen said Tuesday that a one-day workshop will likely be held to inform budget committee members about the process before it starts, which would benefit members who have no prior experience.